A former adviser writes that “the image of Jimmy Carter as a weak president defies reality.”
Credit...Illustration by Mark Weaver. Photographs by Simon/Uzan, via Gamma-Rapho, via Getty Images, Anna Moneymaker, via The New York Times, Bettmann, via Getty Images.
To the Editor:
In “Donald Trump Is a Hostage to 1979” (Sunday Review, Jan. 12), Stephen Metcalf argues that President Trump’s decision to kill Qassim Suleimani stems from his obsession with being the anti-Jimmy Carter. But the image of Jimmy Carter as a weak president defies reality.
As a former submarine officer, Mr. Carter considered a naval blockade of Iran’s ports, but his national security and military advisers were concerned that it would enhance the influence of the Soviet Union and lead to the hostages being returned in coffins.
As president he reversed the decline in post-Vietnam War defense spending. All the weapons systems that President Reagan used to help bring down the Soviet Union were greenlighted by Mr. Carter. Even his conservative critics applauded his tough response to the Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan and his threat of military force to block any Soviet drive to the Persian Gulf.
He warned the mullahs in Tehran that any show trials or physical harm to the hostages would bring instant military retaliation. They heeded his warning.
In fact, in many ways the Carter presidency is the anti-Trump. His landmark ethics legislation passed after Watergate is more relevant today than ever before, as is his pledge to the American people that “I will never lie to you.”
He championed environmental protection and human rights in his foreign policy. And his record of successfully passing almost 70 percent of his major legislation was built on bipartisan support. These are all lessons for the current administration.
Stuart E. Eizenstat
The writer was chief White House domestic policy adviser to President Carter and the author of “President Carter: The White House Years.”